Bailey provides goal and assist as Aston Villa maintain top-four push with victory over Nottingham Forest

By Sports Desk February 24, 2024

Aston Villa strengthened their grip on a top-four position in the Premier League with a pulsating 4-2 win over Nottingham Forest.

Villa have their sights firmly set on Champions League qualification and a first home league win of 2024 saw them move five points clear of Tottenham in fifth.

Ollie Watkins and Douglas Luiz’s double saw them cruise into a 3-0 first-half lead only for Forest to scare them with goals either side of half-time through Moussa Niakhate and Morgan Gibbs-White.

But Leon Bailey struck on the hour to give Villa breathing space and they saw it out to give themselves a cushion over the chasing pack.

Forest were lucky still to be in the game at half-time after being overrun in the first 40 minutes but improved after the break and had enough chances to scrape a point, which would have been handy in their battle against relegation.

Villa needed less than four minutes to go in front as Watkins scored his 14th of the season.

This was one of his easiest finishes, though, thanks to the work of Bailey, who gave him a simple tap-in after being played in down the right and making light work of Murillo.

Watkins could have had his second six minutes later as Villa advanced down the other side, but the England striker’s shot from Jacob Ramsey’s cut-back was blocked on the line by Niakhate.

Villa’s second goal came just before the half-hour and again was built on the right as Cash passed to Ramsey, who teed up Luiz to sweep into the corner.

Forest skipper Gibbs-White summoned his team for a huddle after that went in and gave an impassioned speech, but it had little impact as Villa went three up in the 39th minute.

John McGinn sent in a delightful cross from a recycled corner for Luiz to plant a free header into the corner for his second of the match.

Forest gave themselves a lifeline in first-half injury time as Taiwo Awoniyi headed a corner back across goal and Niakhate chested the ball over the line from close range.

They made three changes at half-time and it had the perfect impact as they made it 3-2 shortly after the restart when substitute Divock Origi slipped Gibbs-White through and he clipped by Emiliano Martinez.

Moments later it should have been 3-3 as Anthony Elanga was sent clear by Origi but dragged his shot wide.

Villa had been like rabbits in the headlights but they began to reassert themselves and almost scored a fourth when Alex Moreno teed up Youri Tielemans, but the Belgian stroked his effort into the post.

The hosts did take control again on the hour as they made it 4-2, with Forest shooting themselves in the foot.

Playing out from the back, Andrew Omobamidele passed to Tielemans, who slipped in Watkins and when Matz Selz came out to block the loose ball it fell to Bailey who had a simple tap-in.

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